Scotland: Hate talk in homes ‘must be prosecuted’

From the Times newspaper…

I look forward to seeing the state enforcing this, it’s almost as if they want families to fall apart, deliberately.

Conversations over the dinner table that incite hatred must be prosecuted under Scotland’s hate crime law, the justice secretary has said.

Journalists and theatre directors should also face the courts if their work is deemed to deliberately stoke up prejudice, Humza Yousaf said.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill has been condemned by critics including the Scottish Catholic Church, police representatives, academics and artists. It will introduce an offence of stirring-up of hatred against people with protected characteristics, including disability, sexual orientation and age.

The bill is loosely based on the Public Order Act 1986, which outlaws threatening, abusive or insulting words and behaviour but includes a “dwelling defence” that states the threatening language cannot be prosecuted if it is spoken in a private home.

Mr Yousaf said that there should be no “dwelling defence” in his bill. He told the Scottish parliament’s justice committee that children, family and house guests must be protected from hate speech. He told MSPs: “Are we comfortable giving a defence to somebody whose behaviour is threatening or abusive which is intentionally stirring up hatred against, for example, Muslims? Are we saying that that is justified because that is in the home? . . . If your intention was to stir up hatred against Jews . . . then I think that deserves criminal sanction.”

Mr Yousaf said theatre directors and journalists should not be exempt from the bill, to prevent activists stoking tensions under the cloak of dramatic licence or freedom of expression. He said: “We wouldn’t want to give the likes of Tommy Robinson a defence by saying that he’s ‘a blogger who writes for The Patriot Times so my reasonable defence is that I am a journalist’.”

The act draws upon a review of hate crime legislation by Lord Bracadale who told the committee that he did not recommend removing the “dwelling defence” and said MSPs’ concerns that it could intrude into private homes were “well founded”. “No suggestion had been made to me that the existence of the dwelling exception had inhibited the [Public Order Act],” he said.

He acknowledged that the Law Commission, the statutory body that reviews legislation in England and Wales, had recommended removing the “poorly targeted” exemption from the Public Order Act. One concern raised by the Law Commission was that hate speech in a large public house was exempt from prosecution but in an office it was not.

Lord Bracadale recommended further consideration of the “dwelling exemption” by MSPs to ensure it does not replicate the pitfalls of the Public Order Act.